Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2005

By Michael Lynderey

October 28, 2009

These bears would go on to be stunt doubles in The Golden Compass.

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Giving the lie to the image of early September as a cinematic dead zone, September 2005 broke out of the gate with some unexpected box office life. First, over the Labor Day weekend, Jason Statham's Transporter 2 opened with a surprisingly strong $16 million (finishing with $43 million); Statham had mostly been toiling away in supporting parts, but this sequel, topping the first film's $25 million total, launched him into a prolific career as B-movie action lead, reminiscent of the work of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson in the '80s. The next weekend's opener was even bigger, and still stands as perhaps the epitome of the post-Ring/Grudge era of the PG-13 horror boom: The Exorcism of Emily Rose blasted out of the gate with the usual "based on a true story" marketing (a statement that, even if true, I've never particularly been compelled by), opening with a shocking - shocking! - $30 million and totaling a remarkable $75 million. The joke was that Emily Rose wasn't even much of an exploitation movie, though it was sure made out to look like one; rather, it was a somewhat effective courtroom drama with a lot of TV-movie elements and the very occasional scare, elevated in quality by the presence of so many good character actors (and Laura Linney in the lead). That a movie like that could climb such unbelievable heights is the testament to the very odd box office era we had now found ourselves in.

September 16th's designated heavy-hitter was a nice little Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy vehicle, Just Like Heaven, which pulled in $48 million - decent, if not quite on the level of some of her previous hits. Next, on the 23rd, Jodie Foster's effective thriller Flightplan rose on some great marketing and a classic locked room mystery to give September another breakout hit, opening with $24 million and finishing with a strong $89 million. The same weekend also had Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an obvious thematic follow-up to his Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), open with $19 million and finish with a solid $53 million.


This is good, strong, box office, especially for September - and even if the month's other films didn't quite live up to the biggies, there were some quality titles. Those included Philip Seymour Hoffman in his Oscar-winning role in Capote ($28 million total), Nicolas Cage's interesting satire Lord of War ($24 million), David Cronenberg's awards-bait thriller A History of Violence ($31 million), and the surprisingly effective '70s flashback, Roll Bounce ($17 million). Roman Polanski followed-up his success with The Pianist (2002) with another version of Oliver Twist (2005), casting Ben Kingsley as Fagin, but it finished with a meek $2 million. Serenity, Joss Whedon's much-anticipated (by its fanbase) version of his TV show Firefly, ended up stuck at $25 million.

Elsewhere, Shia LaBeouf had one of his early leading roles with the golf epic The Greatest Game Ever Played, but the $15 million it mustered up was obviously left far behind in the dust by his series of post-2007 mega-hits. And finally, if you like single-digit grossers - and I do - September had a very respectable batch lined up: the $52 million-budgeted sci-fi opus A Sound of Thunder ($1 million total), the Nick Cannon vehicle Underclassman ($5 million), the very odd couple team-up of Eugene Levy and Samuel L. Jackson in The Man ($8 million), and the last Jennifer Lopez movie thus far to even have a semblance of a wide release, the awards-bait drama An Unfinished Life ($8 million). September '05 was an exceptionally busy time at the movies, littered as it was with film after film, and October would pretty much continue in the same untamed spirit.

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